Peter Kennedy book launch


  • in Sydney on Tuesday 23rd February 6pm at Glee Books, 49 Glebe Point Rd, Glebe by Phillip Adams (RSVP 02 9660 2333), and
  • in Melbourne on Thursday 25th February 6:30pm at Readings Carlton, 309 Lygon Street, Carlton, Victoria by Martin Flanagan with Fr Bob Maguire and Michele Gierck in conversation with Peter Kennedy (RSVP 03 9347 6633 or

In February 2009 Father Peter Kennedy, of Saint Mary’s Catholic Church in South Brisbane, was sacked by his Archbishop for contravening aspects of Catholic doctrine.

This book is an assembly of voices. The introduction is by former Catholic priest and media commentator Paul Collins. Then there is a secular portrait of Kennedy as a man by journalist Martin Flanagan. Flanagan asks, not so much what has Kennedy done, but who is he? Freelance author and writer Michele Gierck stands with the congregation. Her book, 700 Days in El Salvador, is an account of the civil war there, which she saw from the inside. She stands inside the church now known as St Mary’s-in-Exile and describes eleven of the parishioners as she sees them. Then follows a variety of viewpoints on Kennedy and the Church today, what he has done and what the Roman Catholic church has done in banning him from his church. The voices range from singer/songwriter Shane Howard to international theologian Hans Kung. The case against Kennedy is lucidly put by Catholic academic Neil Ormerod. The book ends with journalist Martin Flanagan meeting Kennedy for a second time. Who is this man who threatens Rome? Is Christianity, as Kennedy claims, dying in Australia?

Father Peter Kennedy, of Saint Mary’s Catholic Church in South Brisbane, was sacked by his bishop in February of 2009 – essentially for stretching the bounds and definitions of community to include non-Catholics, gay and divorced souls. Peter, understandably enough after many years of devoting himself to his congregation, refused to be removed, which set off an uproar. But the story is fascinating and revelatory in ways far beyond mere headlines and religiopolitical joust – it cuts to the heart of what being Catholic means, and what congregations and spiritual communities are, and how the genius of Christ’s message is both elevated and muddled by organisational structure and seeming authority.

Book review from

The conflict between Archbishop John Bathersby and Fr Peter Kennedy’s St Mary’s congregation was passionate and public. This valuable book illuminates the dispute, setting it into a human context that is both much smaller and larger than that offered by the media coverage… The merit of St Mary’s is that the diversity of the congregation is evident, and that its welcome to those on the margins of the Catholic Church is explicit and is honoured in its practice as well as in its rhetoric. That is why the separation is such a loss for the Brisbane Catholic Church. If one of the traditional identifying qualities of the Catholic Church is holiness, and if energetic and visible reaching out to marginalised people is an essential expression of holiness, to lose people who offer such a conspicuous example of it is to lose much.

Book review extract by Andrew Hamilton, consulting editor Eureka Street, educator United Faculty of Theology, Melbourne.

Flanagan, Martin et al: Peter Kennedy: The Man Who Threatened Rome. One Day Hill, Melbourne, 2009. ISBN 978 0 9805643 6 5

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply